Now that I've reviewed one of my favorite red dot optics, I can discuss the value and merits of integrating a magnifier to your rifle's optic line up. I know what you're thinking, "This damn Vortex fanboy is trying to separate me from more of my hard earned money! Why not just get a 1-4x power scope?" Well, the answer is both yes and no.
Yes, I think you should get yourself a magnifier to accompany your red dot optic. Red dots are great for multiple types of rifles, and are quick for fast and dirty work up close as well as adequate for slower fire at targets up to and beyond 100 yards. Its those times when you are taking longer shots that adding a 3x zoom is not only useful, but potentially essential. Is it faster to pivot a magnifier out of the way than it is to turn a magnification ring on a scope? Nope, they're about the same. The real difference is the 1x setting on most lower tier scopes aren't a true one power, meaning zero magnification. These scopes can cause optical distortion on their lowest setting, and can hinder efficient target acquisition at closer ranges. If you go out of your way to find a true 1x variable power scope, you'll being paying way more than $400.
Its certainly acceptable to be satisfied with a red dot alone, and not feel the need to add a magnifier behind it. Just hear me out though. Target identification is a huge advantage to having a magnifier on board your rifle. If you are engaging a target (paper, steel, or flesh) you should be able to clearly see all aspects of the target. Giving yourself a little zoom can help in picking out holes in the target at the range, or more importantly in combat you can see greater details and attributes of your target, and what lies behind it. At 50 yards your eyes should have no problem gathering this critical information, but at 100 yards and beyond the naked human eye just isn't up to the task. Adding 3x magnification isn't enough to cut field of view too drastically, but can be a well needed boost at those ranges. Plus, it can still be used in close quarters without wasting precious time trying to acquire the target.
Vortex's magnifier is the VMX-3T, and just like their red dot optics, it boasts a super high quality and a lean price tag that is truly hard to beat. It costs the exact same as the Sparc II / AR, two optics it plays very nicely with. It also works with the Strikefire, as well as other manufacturer's optics like EOtech holographic sights, AimPoint optics, etc. It will not work with any magnified optic that also requires eye relief, such as a Spitfire 4x Prism optic. (Oh trust me, I tried.)
The integration of a mount is really paramount to a magnifier's usefulness on a rifle (pun intended). The ability to rotate or flip out of the way when the bare optic or iron sights are being used is the most iconic feature of a good magnifier. In fairness, I've used and compared a couple types of mounts on my rifles besides the VMX-3T. The EOtech G33 for instance, I got in a trade deal, and it came with an American Defense Swiveling mount. This swung the magnifier 180 degress on a horizontal axis. I found this to require more clearance and was slower to deploy, compared to the more common "flip" Y axis mounts. That, and any object that snagged the optic in the offset position with enough force could free the mount's detent lock. Usually the G33 comes with a standard "flip" style, but for comparison sake I wanted to illustrate which format of mount was better.
The VMX-3T's mount has a push button release than ensures rock solid deployed and offset positions, and is easily pushable with the operator's thumb while grabbing the whole tube for flipping it out of the way quickly but also smoothly. If you are a left and desire to swap the mount so the magnifier flips to the right side of the receiver, it is doable... however the release button will be facing away from you and may become more cumbersome to operate. While I wish the mount attached to the host rail itself with a quick detach lever, the nature of the two position joint negates that desire. If I don't want to optic in my way, flip it to the side. If I need the "zoom zoom for the boom boom" then flip it inline with your optic. The only reason to ditch the optic completely from the rifle is weight savings, which is just shy of 12 ounces anyway. The extra weight added to your rifle is a small price to pay for a distinct advantage behind the trigger.
As far as glass quality is concerned, I found the VMX-3T to be brighter by a noticeable margin. The eyebox on both VMX-3T and G33 magnifiers was almost identical in terms of eye relief distance. Both brands' adjustment turrets for azimuth centering were also on par. I did prefer that the VMX-3T could be adjusted with a coin or flatheaded tool on the fly, whereas the G33 required removal of caps before making an adjustment. I find that you don't typically need to tweak with the turrets more than once unless swapping optics entirely. Both also have an adjustable diopter for tuning the sharpness to your specific liking, but I did find the Vortex to be easier in finding that sweet spot of crisp lines and textures. The higher level of brightness and the drastically lower MSRP is really what struck the deal for me.
One more important feature of a magnifier is rail clearance. The VMX-3T's mount only takes up about 4 slots of picatinny rail, so you should have plenty of room to pair is with your favorite red dot optic on the top rail of an AR-15 receiver or other modern sporting rifle. Be aware though as it might not sit high enough to clear your favorite folding rear iron sight. Griffin Armament M2 clear, as does Midwest Industries and Magpul MBUS, so if you are running any one of those you'll be fine.
Yes thats right, you could still run vertical iron sights cowitnessed with your red dot optic should you need to, all while the magnifier is flipped to the offset position. Can you do that with your 1-4x scope without going out and buying a whole new set of offset iron sights? Hmm? On another note, it is possible to use the magnifier as a "field monocular" when in the offset position. Closing my dominant eye and using my left eye, I could look thru the VMX-3T without shifting my cheek weld much or adjusting my shooting position. So if you are at the range and want to use the magnifier in such a way to benefit your view of the target, feel free to do so!
If you already have a red dot, chances are I don't need to convince you how practical and useful it is. I would suggest you look into adding a magnifier to squeeze out more benefits and adaptability to your rifle's capabilities. Don't let steep price tags scare you either, because the VMX-3T is the quintessential "best bang for your buck" in the magnifier market right now. Plus, its hard to deny the potential for pure instagram gold.
FIREARMS INSIDER REVIEWS – 8 KEY POINTS
Claim to Fame: Vortex VMX - 3T Magnifier with Flip Mount. Simple. Fast. Effective
Target Market: Red Dot owners
FNBs (Features & Benefits of this product):
Fully Multi-Coated Lenses
Hard Anodized low-glare matte finish
Nitrogen Gas Purged
Waterproof, fogproof and shockproof
2.2 inch Eye Relief
Field of View 38.2 feet/100 yards
30 mm Tube Size
- 4.3 inches long
- Weighs 11.9 oz
- Includes side flipping mount
- Reversable mount
Multi-Height Mount System Includes a spacer shim that can be utilized to provide two different mounting heights: lower 1/3 co-witness (40 mm) & absolute co-witness (37 mm)
Compatible with Sparc II, Sparc AR, Strikefire, as well as other manufacturer's optics
Azimuth adjustable to center a zeroed reticle / red dot in magnifier view
What other aesthetic options or finishes are available?: Black Only
What others are saying?: "I recently purchased the Vortex VMX-3T 3X magnifier to go behind my Aimpoint PRO. The quality of the Vortex is great. It feels study and substantial. The glass gathers a lot of light, and is very clear. At 1/2 the price, or less, than that of the Aimpoint or Eotech 3X magnifier, the Vortex is a steal.The only thing that I changed with the Vortex was that I flipped the optic around so that it flipped over to the right side. Make sure you use blue Loctite on the mounting screws so that they won't loosen up, and you are good to go." Amazon User Review
- Brighter light transmission
- Rock solid mount
- Huge compatibility range in Vortex and other brands' optics
- Lower Third and Absolute cowitness compatible
- Uncapped turrets
- Lens caps
- No QD mount available (is it needed, really?)
- Ambidextrous configuration puts release button in awkward position
Score: 8.5 Great